Posted on September 28, 2014 in Addiction

Government Study Underscores the Dangers of Binge Drinking

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a first-of-its-kind report that shows how alcohol is cutting millions of American lives short by several decades. The report separates binge drinking from alcoholism and even distinguishes between long-term, health-related deaths and more immediate causes of death related to alcohol use. While both long-term alcohol use and binge drinking are dangerous to health, the report reveals that binge drinking is more deadly to Americans even than years of alcohol misuse.

According to the CDC report, one out of six Americans (38 million-plus adults) binges on alcohol. Binging is defined as four or more drinks for a woman and five or more drinks for a man. The report indicates that one in 10 adult deaths (2006-2010) were connected in some way to overdrinking. As many as 88,000 U.S. adults died each of those years because of heavy drinking, binge drinking, underage drinking or drinking while pregnant. Nearly 70 percent of the fatalities were among people ages 20 to 64, and when a life was cut short because of an alcohol-related death, the average length of time cut from the life span was 30 years.

A New Tool

The CDC used a newly developed application to collect state-by-state mortality statistics and then employ scientific models to calculate the number of alcohol-related deaths. The tool can differentiate between deaths linked to alcohol-caused health problems (e.g., heart disease, liver disease) and more immediate alcohol fatalities (e.g., car accident, alcohol poisoning). According to the report, many of the deaths were associated with binge drinking. Binge drinking is more common than full-blown alcohol addiction and therefore the practice is linked to more deaths than alcoholism.

Possible Responses

Experts at the CDC suggest a few possible responses to the findings. Increasing the cost of alcohol while lowering its availability were central to the recommendations. The CDC recommended:

  • Federal regulations to shorten the hours when alcohol may be sold
  • Controlling how many sales outlets can exist within a certain radius
  • Raising taxes on alcohol sales

Heading into any weekend or holiday season, it’s important to be aware that those who occasionally binge on alcohol pose the greatest danger to life and limb. Many don’t realize that it’s having one too many once in a while that is the deadliest risk.

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